Jacqui Kennedy, Acting Strategic Director of Place, talks about council tenant involvement and tackles some myths about repairs and maintenance.
Birmingham’s council tenants help us to improve services in all sorts of ways. Some people are involved in the Housing Liaison Board Movement, monitoring and regulating the service we provide. Others are involved in Tenant Management Organisations, helping to manage homes in a specific area on behalf of the council. Council tenants also help us with one off activities such as surveys or mystery shopping. All of this is useful because we gain valuable insights from our customers which help us to deliver better services.
And now we have a group of tenant inspectors too. These enthusiastic and fully trained volunteers inspect council properties when tenants move out and also check whether repairs are carried out to a good standard. Not only are they helping council staff to check on the state of our council housing, they feed back to their communities. They help us to spread the word about the sort of repairs and maintenance that are required when people move house, what is rechargeable to tenants and how some of our precious resources – officer and contractor time and money – are wasted because some people leave their properties in a pretty poor state. (See – http://birminghamnewsroom.com/the-tenant-inspectors-are-coming/ – for their story)
All tenants receive a handbook with useful guidance when they take on a council property. It’s available online at http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/tenants-handbook too. In the section on moving home there’s a handy checklist to remind tenants of the following very important points –
- Give four weeks’ notice – you need to sign a Notice to Quit to give us four weeks’ notice and we need the address of where you are moving to. This is vital so that we can make sure everything is done correctly and we can offer your property to another family desperate for accommodation.
- Pay all rent and charges up to the end of your tenancy – if you don’t, we can go to court to recover your debts and you may have difficulty getting credit or other housing as a result.
- Make sure any repairs are carried out – you must repair or replace any parts of your home that have been damaged while you have lived there. If you won’t, we will charge you for the work.
- Leave the property clean and tidy – make sure you get rid of any extra rubbish or furniture you no longer need at one of the household recycling centres. If we have to clear your property and garden you may be charged £100.
- Return all keys to us – you must return all keys to the property by midday on Monday the tenancy ends. This includes front and back door keys, window keys, shed keys, keys for shared gates and keys to the chute room if you live in a flat. If you don’t return your keys we will either charge you rent until you do return the keys or we will have to change the locks and you will be charged for this.
It’s all spelt out but sadly a lot of tenants choose to ignore these basic rules. This creates unnecessary work for staff, delays moving other desperate families into homes and can also cause them unnecessary bills when we recharge them for the work that’s been needed to get things ready for the next tenants. The tenant inspectors will help us to remind tenants about their duties and help us to create a more efficient service.